On May 23, 1964, Jim Templeton took his wife and 5-year old daughter Elizabeth to Burgh Marsh for a pleasant afternoon of walking and picture taking, but when he got the images developed they were forced to come face to face with the unbelievable… what appeared to be an alien being.
While there have been scores of photos purporting to have captured the likeness of an extra-terrestrial being — such as Alabama’s METAL MAN OF FALKVILLE — few are as intriguing as the image accidentally snapped by firefighter, Jim Templeton. The incident occurred near the Solway Firth estuary, when Templeton and his family hiked up a grassy knoll eight miles west of their home in Carlisle on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
Templeton was an amateur photographer and wanted to take some photos of their daughter Elizabeth in her new dress with his Kodak SLR. He claimed that it was normal afternoon except for the fact that the cow and sheep that would normally have infested the field were all bunched together feeding on the far side of the marsh:
“All the animals on that particular day were away on the other end of the marsh, all huddled together, as though they’d been frightened.”
Templeton, noticing nothing awry, had Elizabeth pose on a grassy hillside grasping a bunch of freshly picked flowers. He proceeded to snap three successive photos of his child and then the family continued on their way, unaware of what the camera had captured.
A few days later, Templeton retrieved his photographs back from the chemist that had developed them. In passing, the chemist expressed his disappointment that “some idiot” had ruined what he believed to be the best shot of his daughter. Templeton, puzzled, looked at the photograph in question.
What he saw was the image of what appeared to be a tall humanoid figure clad in a spacesuit jutting out at an odd angle from behind his daughter’s head. Templeton was confounded as neither he nor his wife had seen anything (or anyone) unusual on their walk, but what was most perplexing was the fact that the “spaceman” only showed up in the middle of the three consecutive photos he had shot and was “missing” from the first and last.
Templeton, hoping to get to the bottom of this mystery, reported the case to the police and sent the picture back to Kodak where it was exhaustively examined by trained professionals for any signs of faulty film stock, tampering or hoax. They found none.
Kodak announced that the photo was genuine, refuting the police’s assumption that this was just a case of double exposure with one negative having been printed on top of another during processing. Chief Superintendent Oldcorn dismissed the image as merely:
“…one of those things… a freak picture.”
While many believe that the face plate of this “being” is visible above the young girl’s head, it seems to the us here at American Monsters (and to numerous others) that the elbow of the entity is pointing backwards and that shoulder blades are visible. It also seems that the figure is looking to the right and what appears to be the face plate is actually the shadow of the base of the skull.
The executives at Kodak were so intrigued by this dilemma that they offered a reward of free film for a year to any person that could solve the mystery as to how this “spaceman” got into the picture. The reward remains unclaimed.
It wasn’t long before this captivating image caught the attention of the worldwide press and the picture was quickly published in newspapers around the globe. Templeton succinctly described the event to the press:
“As an amateur photographer on a day-trip with my family, I took the photograph on Burgh Marsh on May 23, 1964. I took three pictures of my daughter Elizabeth in a similar pose and was shocked when the middle picture came back from Kodak displaying what looks like a spaceman in the background.”
Strangely, the region where the shot was taken had been a breeding ground of UFO activity. Many of the locals around Burgh Marsh believe that this was due to the nuclear power plant that resided nearby. Templeton told reporters that he had heard reports of the UFOs that had been seen over Burgh Marsh, but had seen nothing of the sort when he took the now famous picture:
“Many of the fishermen near the marsh have seen UFOs and many interesting things have happened in this area from time to time. Some of the scientist types say the UFOs are interested in the Chapel Cross Atomic Power Station, which you can see on the horizon to the right of my picture.”
While minute details in the reported story tend to vary somewhat at this point, the basic facts seem to be intact. According to Templeton, two men wearing dark suits pulled up to the firehouse where he worked in a dark Jaguar. The strange men, who referred to each other by numbers instead of names, claimed to be agents of Her Majesty’s Government.
The mysterious men asked Templeton to take them to the site where the photo was taken. During the five mile drive to the location, Templeton was bombarded by a series of bizarre questions pertaining to the weather and the behavior of the birds and other animals on the day in question.
After they arrived at the scene, the MIB attempted to force Templeton to confess that he had photographed nothing more than an ordinary man. When Templeton refused to make such an admission, the men became angry and stormed off, leaving the befuddled firefighter to walk the five miles back to work.
A second roll of film that Templeton had sent to Kodak for processing months later was returned with some of the negatives mysteriously missing. Templeton was forced to conclude that they were confiscated by Government agents because the film may have revealed something secret.
This tale takes yet another strange turn toward the weird when the Editor of a Cumberland newspaper requested to borrow the negative of the photo in order to send a copy to another newspaper in Australia. Apparently they were dealing with their own potentially extra-terrestrial phenomenon and believed that there might be a connection.
The launch was halted when two automatic survey cameras caught a pair of large, unidentified, humanoid figures — clad in what appeared to be white spacesuits — walking around the launch pad. It should be noted that at the time of the launch the Templeton photo had not reached Australia and the crew had no knowledge of the image. Templeton described the incident as he heard it:
“They saw the monitors. Somebody (was) in the firing area and, of course, the countdown was stopped. They searched the area — nobody to be found, not a soul. And it was put down to a technical fault… but it was exactly the same type of man — same dress, same figure, same size as the picture that was taken over in Burgh Marsh.”
The aborted launch was part of a huge space project known as Blue Streak and reporters soon discovered that the rocket to be used in the launch was manufactured in Spadeadam, England, which is just a few miles from the Burgh Marsh.
When Australian reporters asked to view the security camera footage taken at Woomera on May 23rd, they were informed that out of all the canisters of film taken during the entire Blue Streak project, the only canister missing was the one containing the requested footage.
The Woomera facility has been the sight of numerous UFO sightings and at least on more aborted launch due to what was described as a “white being” that was spotted on the security cameras. Eventually the Blue Streak rocket was successfully launched on 5 June 1964. What, if any, connection the Cumberland Spaceman has to do with project Blue Streak remains a mystery to this day.
Now, almost 50 years later, the image still defies explanation remaining one of the most intriguing unexplained images of the 20th century. Templeton, who emphasizes that he has never made a profit off the odd photo, remains mystified as to the identity of this uninvited “spaceman” after all these years:
“Over the four decades the photo has been in the public domain, I have had many thousands of letters from all over the world with various ideas or possibilities — most of which make little sense to me. It should also be noted that I have received no payment for taking this picture.”
© Copyright Rob Morphy 2002 — 2011